Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: Rev. Ward Cotton's Ministry -- The North Hill Parish, 1731-1767

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Rev. Ward Cotton, Pastor

Mr. Ward Cotton delivered the first sermon which he preached in Hampton, in July, 1731. how long he remained here immediately after that time, we do not know. He was chosen by the town in September, 1733, to assist Mr. Gookin the next three months, and the term of his engagement was afterward extended to the time of the annual town meeting the next spring.

At that meeting the freeholders voted to settle him in the work of the ministry, as colleague with Mr. Gookin, provided they could agree upon the terms of settlement. The terms first offered not being satisfactory, they were soon after modified so as to read as follows:

"We will yearly give Mr. Ward Cotton £100 in paper money of the present currency, and £20 in provision at the same lay that the Reverend Mr. Gookin has his, during his continuance in the ministry in this place, and after four years are expired, we will add £5 a year until the salary amounts to £120 a year in paper money, besides the £20 in provision; and we will provide him a convenient parsonage-house and land, &c., sufficient to keep two or three cows and a horse, and what wood may he necessary; and we will not exceed a year before we have these things in some forwardness, and in the meantime we will provide him some convenient place to dwell in."

At a church meeting on the 9th of May, the following vote was passed: "Whereas this town hath chosen Mr. Ward Cotton for their minister with their present minister, we do now choose him to be our pastor with our present pastor." Mr. Christopher Page and Mr. Samuel Palmer, Jun. -- two of the town's committee -- were chosen on the part of the church, "to wait upon Mr. Cotton with this vote, and to pray his answer." The record says, "They return'd with his answer of acceptance."

It was then decided that the ordination should be on Wednesday, the 19th of June, and that the following churches be invited to form the council, viz.: The churches in Newton and Providence, both the churches in Salisbury, both the churches in Portsmouth, and the churches in Exeter, at the Falls, in Greenland and in Stratham. The four deacons -- or any two of them -- were authorized to sign the letters missive. As a preparatory step, the church voted to observe the 23d day of May as a day of fasting and prayer.

The ordination took place as arranged. Rev. William Allen, of Greenland, offered the introductory prayer; Rev. John Cotton, of Newton, Mass., a brother of the candidate for settlement, preached from I Thess. 2: 4; Rev. John Odlin, of Exeter, made the ordaining prayer; Rev. Caleb Cushing, of Salisbury, Mass., gave the charge; Rev. Jabez Fitch, of Portsmouth, the right-hand of fellowship; and Rev. Henry Rust, of Stratham, offered the concluding prayer.

This is the first instance, in which at an ordination among this people, we find any mention of a sermon. It seems probable that, at former ordinations, there had been no sermons preached by others than the persons to be ordained.

At the time when Mr. Cotton became pastor of the church, there were 253 members in full communion -- 84 males and 169 females. Though he was settled as colleague with Mr. Gookin, yet on account of the feebleness of the senior pastor at that time and of his death a little more than two months afterward, Mr. Cotton may be regarded as having the whole charge of the pastorate from the time of his ordination.

About three years after, a church was formed in Kensington, sometimes called the third parish in Hampton. Fourteen persons, including Mr. Jeremiah Fogg, the pastor elect of the new church, were dismissed from this church "in order to their being embodyed into a church state in ye Third Parish of this Town," on the 6th day of October, 1737.[See last chapter]

At a church meeting in the following spring -- about seventy brethren being present -- the following votes were passed: Yt a Committee of seven Brethren be chosen to assist the Pastor in many affairs relating to ye advancement of ye Spiritual welfare of this Church & Congregation."

Yt Christopher Page, Deacon Josiah Moulton, Benjamin James, Capt. Jabez Smith, Joshua Lane, and Joseph Philbrick, be the Committee for this purpose."[A seventh was not chosen.]

"Yt they shall from time to time consult & advise with their Pastor, & take no steps in any affair without his knowledge, or at least soon after acquainting him with the same." (p This was probably the origin of a "standing committee" in this church, the propriety or the benefit of which is at least questionable. About one hundred years later, it was abolished.

Another vote passed at the same meeting, is the first intimation that we have, of any money being raised among this people for missionary purposes. The vote is thus recorded: "To have a contribution in some convenient time to promote ye preaching of the Gospel in ye Towns of Providence, South Kingston & Westerly within ye Colony of Rhode Island." It was also voted, that the money, when collected, should be put into the hands of the pastor, to be delivered to Dr. Colman and Dr. Sewall, of Boston, for the purpose designated. The contribution proposed was taken up on the Sabbath near the middle of April, and amounted to "upwards of £20 in money." About three months after, a letter acknowledging the receipt of the money, was received from Dr. Colman and Dr. Sewall, and read to the people on the Sabbath.

"Mr. Thomas Bernard (Barnard)[Son of Rev. John Barnard of Andover Mass.; born in that town, Aug. 17. 1716; ordained pastor of the 2nd church in Newbury, Jan. 31,1739; resigned the pastoral office. Jan. 18, 1751; was installed pastor of the 1st church in Salem, Sept. 15, 1755, and died Aug. 5, 1776, aged 60 years. (See Chap. XXVI.)] being called to settle as Pastor to ye 2d Church in Newberry, was dismiss'd from us to ye same," January 21, 1739 and Dea. Josiah Moulton, Maj. Joshua Wingate and Capt. Jabez Smith were chosen messengers to accompany the pastor to the ordination.

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